|Holsinger not to participate in top court?s meeting|
A UMNS Report
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Oct. 23, 2007
James W. Holsinger Jr., president of the United Methodist Judicial Council and President George W. Bush’s nominee for U.S. Surgeon General, has decided to not participate in the council’s Oct. 24-27 meeting.
James W. Holsinger Jr
In a statement issued Oct. 23, Holsinger said he is concerned his nomination could become an “unnecessary and unproductive distraction.”
The Judicial Council, the denomination’s top court, will be meeting in San Francisco. Among issues to be addressed will be the case of a pastor who switched gender from female to male.
“As is always the case, members of the Council will travel thousands of miles to attend this meeting and have spent untold hours studying and praying in preparation,” the statement said. “In order to maintain the integrity of the proceedings of the Judicial Council and in order for Council members to focus solely on the cases in front of them, I have chosen not to participate in the meeting.”
Holsinger said he remains dedicated and humbled by his election to the council in 2000 and believes in its mission.
“While I remain dedicated to fulfilling the role to which I was elected, I believe this is a time in which my service to the Council can best be demonstrated by my absence.”
Bush nominated Holsinger to serve as the 18th surgeon general on May 24. He testified before a Senate committee in July and came under fire for a 1991 paper he wrote on homosexuality. He has said the paper was written for a denominational committee and does not reflect his position today.
Holsinger, 68, a professor of preventative medicine at the University of Kentucky and a former leader of that state’s health care system, has been active at all levels of The United Methodist Church. Gay and lesbian groups and others have criticized the council’s homosexuality-related decisions as well as his 1991 paper.
The transgender case before the Judicial Council involves a clergy member of the denomination’s Baltimore-Washington Annual (regional) Conference.
When the conference met in late May, Bishop John R. Schol reappointed the Rev. Drew Phoenix as pastor of St. John’s United Methodist Church in Baltimore. Phoenix, 48, had been minister at St. John’s for five years as the Rev. Ann Gordon. After surgery and hormone therapy in the past year, the pastor changed his gender to male and adopted a new name.
“My transition to live fully as the male I know myself to be is very personal and deeply spiritual,” Phoenix told the annual conference. “As I continue to transition, to fully claim myself as a male, I find myself coming home to the child God created me to be. I find myself joyful, whole and peaceful. And I find myself even more effective as a pastor.”
In his ruling, Schol wrote, “There are no paragraphs in the 2004 Book of Discipline that prevent transgender clergy from serving in an appointment.”
Though The United Methodist Church bars self-avowed practicing gay clergy from appointment and does not support gay unions, the Book of Discipline says nothing about transgender clergy.
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Judicial Council Fall Docket
Judicial Council Decisions
The Judicial Council
Rules of Practice and Procedure